Best of a Century:

Fight of the Decade: 1960-1969

Floyd Patterson vs. Ingemar Johansson,  Mar 14th, 1961

By: Monte Cox

ImageThe Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson fights, like Zale-Graziano, and Ali-Frazier stand out as the best of the great fight trilogies of the 20th century. Those classic slugfests, including the Patterson and Johannson fights rank among the best and most historically significant in boxing history. Of their three fights the first was the most shocking, the second the most devastating knockout, but the third was the best fight.

Floyd lost that first encounter destroyed by the "toonder and lightning" right hand power shots of Johansson, floored seven times in the third round, embarrassed and separated from his title. In the rematch Patterson suprised many by outboxing and outslugging his undefeated oppponent, knocking him out with a bonecrunching left hook with chilling power that left Johansson's foot twitching eerily as he was counted out. It was one of the most remarkable examples of a pressure point knockout on record.

This time Patterson was a 4-1 favorite. The rubber match was held in Miami in front of 15,532 fans. Patterson, now the first man to ever regain the heavyweight title, weighed in at 195 lbs, Johannson at 206.

Early in the first round it appeared that it would be a repeat of the first fight. Lightinig struck as the Swede's powerful right cross reached out and dropped someone. Patterson got up after a short count. Another paralyzing right to the head dropped Patterson for a second time in the opening round. Johannson looked to be on his way to a knockout victory, overwhelming Patterson as he did in their first encounter. Floyd was determined not to let that happen again and fought back with vigor. A whistling left hook to the jaw dropped Ingo near the end of a thrilling first round. It was named the Round of the Year in 1961 by Ring magazine.

Weary of each others power they boxed more cautiously over the next couple of rounds with each man getting in some strong punches. By the fourth round Patterson was the more effective fighter concentrating his attack on the Swede's body.  

In the 6th Ingo landed a strong right that slowed Patterson's attack momentarily, but his punches didn't have the same power as they did in the first round. Patterson's body attack had taken the thunder from Johannson's lightning like rights. Patterson came on strong with some quick combinations. Johannson was hurt. A final right by Floyd did him in the same round. Patterson had retained the title by knockout!

In an age where sequels are rarely as good as an original, the Patterson-Johannson fights provided the fans their monies worth. The most exciting, competive, and historically significant bouts of the decade of the 60's.

Honorable Mentions:

Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston, Feb 25, 1964  The crowning of the once and future King. Ali boxed brilliantly to defeat the heavly favored Liston, but not really a great fight.

Nino Benvenuti Vs. Emile Griffith, April 17, 1967. The former Olypic Gold Medalist Benvenuti was a 7-2 underdog against Griffith. Suprising the experts, Benvenuti floors Griffith in the 2nd, is floored himself in the 4th, but finishes strong to take a unanimous decision and the title.

Dick Tiger vs. Frankie DePaula, Oct. 25, 1968 Tiger now an ex-champ gets into an exciting war with New York's DePaula. Frankie wins the first two rounds flooring Tiger in the second. Tiger rallies to drop DePaula twice and nearly ko Frankie in third. DePaula downs Tiger again in 4th. Tiger comes back to win then last rounds to earn a close but deserved decision victory.

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